Iraqi insurgents take U.S. Marine hostage

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Arab television broadcast videotape Sunday of two men taken hostage by militants, one described as a U.S. Marine lured from his base and the other a Pakistani driver for an American contractor. Insurgents threatened to behead them both.

Also, militants hit a coalition transport plane with small arms fire after takeoff from Baghdad’s airport, killing an American passenger and forcing the aircraft to return. The Washington Post reported that the American was a Defense Department employee.

Turkey rejected demands by militants threatening to behead three Turkish hostages unless Turkish companies cease business with U.S. forces in Iraq.

Death threats against hostages as well as insurgent attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces have accelerated as Iraq’s interim government prepares to assume sovereignty Wednesday.

The U.S. military confirmed that a Marine named Wassef Ali Hassoun had been missing from his unit for nearly a week. It said it was unclear if he had been taken hostage, but Hassoun’s name was on a Marine “active duty” identification card shown by militants in the videotape aired by the Al-Jazeera network.

Late Sunday, Hassoun’s family in the Salt Lake City suburb of West Jordan confirmed that he was the kidnapped Marine who appeared in the videotape.

In the video, the hostage had a white blindfold covering his eyes. He wore military fatigues, and his mustache was trimmed. The U.S. military said Hassoun was of Lebanese descent, though the Al-Jazerra report said the hostage’s origins were Pakistani.

The kidnappers claimed to have infiltrated a Marine outpost, lured Hassoun outside and abducted him. Al-Jazeera said the militants demanded the release of all Iraqis “in occupation jails” or the hostage would be killed. They identified themselves as part of Islamic Response.

Earlier Sunday, the Pakistani driver was shown on a tape broadcast by a different Arab television station, Al-Arabiya. The hostage displayed an identification card issued by the U.S. firm Kellogg, Brown &Root.

Four masked men holding assault rifles across their chests said they would behead the Pakistani within three days unless Americans freed prisoners held at Abu Ghraib and the cities of Balad, Dujail and Samarra.

The hostage, who gave his name as Amjad, urged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to close the Pakistani Embassy in Iraq and to ban Pakistanis from coming to Iraq.

“I’m also Muslim, but despite this they didn’t release me,” he said, bowing his head. “They are going to cut the head of any person regardless of whether he is a Muslim or not.”

Other developments

* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday that the United States has no immediate plans to send more troops to Iraq.

* The United States will transfer legal custody of Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi government perhaps as early as this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Sunday. Hussein, however, will remain in the hands of U.S. troops, U.S. officials say.

* An American soldier was killed Sunday when a rocket slammed into a U.S. base in Baghdad, the military said.

* Gunmen killed six soldiers of the new Iraqi National Guard and wounded four others Sunday at a checkpoint in Jalawla.

* Guerrillas fired a volley of several mortars into the heart of Baghdad, killing two children playing near the Tigris River, an Interior Ministry official said Sunday.

Other developments

* Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday that the United States has no immediate plans to send more troops to Iraq.

* The United States will transfer legal custody of Saddam Hussein to the new Iraqi government perhaps as early as this weekend, Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi said Sunday. Hussein, however, will remain in the hands of U.S. troops, U.S. officials say.

* An American soldier was killed Sunday when a rocket slammed into a U.S. base in Baghdad, the military said.

* Gunmen killed six soldiers of the new Iraqi National Guard and wounded four others Sunday at a checkpoint in Jalawla.

* Guerrillas fired a volley of several mortars into the heart of Baghdad, killing two children playing near a bank of the river Tigris, an Interior Ministry official said Sunday.

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